“The Secret Life of Judges”

by Ted Frank on August 28, 2007

Via Adam Liptak’s (TimesSelect) column, Judge Dennis Jacobs has given an important speech (published in the Fordham Law Review), describing a problem we have noted here before:

I am not—I repeat, I am not—speaking about a bias based upon politics or agenda, economic class, ethnicity, or para-ethnicity. When I refer to the secret life of judges, I am speaking of an inner turn of mind that favors, empowers, and enables our profession and our brothers and sisters at the bar. It is secret, because it is unobserved and therefore unrestrained—by the judges themselves or by the legal community that so closely surrounds and nurtures us. It is an ambient bias.

The result is the incremental preference for the lawyered solution, the fee-paid intervention or pro bono project, the lawyer-driven procedure, the appellate dispensation—and the confidence and faith that these things produce the best results. It is an insidious bias, because it is hard to make out, in the vast maze of judicial work and outcomes, the statutes, doctrines, and precedents that are woven together like an elaborate oriental rug in which the underlying image of the dragon emerges only after you stare for a while. I discern in this jumble a bias in favor of the bar and lawyers: what they do; how they do it; and how they prosper in goods and influence.

Earlier: Apr. 3; June 2006.


1 Tony Zirkle 08.28.07 at 9:44 pm

Judges have too much power. Why is the class of lawyers the only citizen class who decides what obscenity children must tolerate?

Tony Zirkle

2 Beldar 08.29.07 at 9:18 pm

Fabulous speech! I’ve linked and praised it here. This ought to be required reading not just for members of the judiciary, but all members of the bar.

3 tyree 08.30.07 at 12:38 am

How much better would our world be if defective plumbing was investigated and ruled on by plumbers, who would then remedy the situation and back charge the bad tradesman?

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